Canada’s top doctor admitted the overwhelming demand for H1N1 shots caught health officials by surprise and following a week of long lines at immunization clinics, healthy people in Ontario have been asked to exercise patience as they may have to wait until Christmas to get the jab.
“We’ll be rolling out the program as quickly as we can,” Dr. King said, adding that wait times are improving across the province.
Flu shot clinics in Toronto slated to open to the general population Monday remain available to people in high-risk groups only, which include pregnant women; children between six months and five years; people under 65 with chronic medical conditions; those who live with or care for infants under six months and immuno-compromised people, and health care workers.
Lineups started early at centres across the city Monday. At the Etobicoke Civic Centre, people were allowed inside in batches of 200 to 300 people so nurses could do the screening and then they were issued a ticket with a time to return for the shot.
Click here for details about H1N1 vaccine clinic dates and locations around the GTA.
The same scenario is playing out across the province, but Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Arlene King, said twice as many clinics with longer hours will be administering the vaccine in an effort to speed up the process. She added that some 86,800 new doses have been received by the province and insisted the goal was to have all 2.2 million doses in people’s arms by the end of the week. The number of H1N1 clinics in the province has also been doubled from 50 to 100.
Hundreds of doctors have or will soon receive the vaccine after the province made some changes to the arduous system physicians had to follow to order the shots.
King said every Ontarian who wants the shot will have it by Christmas; this despite the fact influenza is at the highest rate seen in the past few years. She added that although rates are high, deaths are a rarity and “well outside the norm.”
Nearly 2,000 people with H1N1 across the country have been hospitalized and the Public Health Agency of Canada said the virus has so far killed 95 people. The common flu generally sends about 20,000 people to hospital every year and complications from the flu kill between 4,000 and 8,000 people annually.
Last week, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, warned of a temporary shot shortage. Vaccine-maker GlaxoSmithKline said it could only produce about 436,000 of the one million doses the government had requested this week because it was ordered to manufacture more adjuvant-free shots for pregnant women and young children. The company expects to ship 225,000 doses without the adjuvant, or booster.
Butler-Jones said production is expected to ramp up again on Nov. 9.